Political Islam and Socio-Political Transformations in the MENA Region after the Arab Spring

Rachela Tonta's picture
December 9, 2015
Subject Fields: 
Islamic History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Political Science, Religious Studies and Theology, Social Sciences



Political Islam and Socio-Political Transformations in the MENA Region after the Arab Spring


Tischner European University, Cracow (Poland) 09.12.2015


In December 2015 it will be five years since the individual protest of Mohamed Bouaziz in Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring that led to the significant remodelling of MENA political landscape including ouster from power of many head of states. As a result of these events the processes of democratization were initiated, which included inter alia elections to Tunisian and Egyptian Constitutional Assemblies and adoption of the new constitutions. In the case of both countries, Islamist movements - Ennahda in Tunisia and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - won the first free elections and became main forces influencing new political order. Their entry to the parliament and major role in establishment of governments meant that they had accomplished a very important goal – they could freely participate in the countries’ political life and shape their policies. For the first time in history Islamist parties had also a chance of changing the dominant regional model of nation-state building inherited from the colonial period and based on secular political leadership and extensive military-intelligence coercion apparatus. The prevalence of this model and absence of democratizing processes was named by Western scholars “Arab exceptionalism”. Is the notion of “Arab exceptionalism” still valid in the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring? What role Islamist movements and parties have played over the last years in deconstructing it?

Active involvement of Islamist movements in the realm of politics in the last years required also redefinition of the character of those movements and necessity of drawing clear boundaries between their activity as political parties and as social movements. In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, this process was abruptly interrupted on 3 July 2013, when the first democratically elected president was ousted from power and thousands of other members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were imprisoned. What this dramatic change in political opportunity structures meant for the organization building its mobilizing apparatus for over 85 years? Will the repressions and political exclusion lead to its further moderation or rather contribute to its radicalisation? How in the light of these processes one should assess the experiences of other actors representing political Islam in the region like for example Salafist An-Nour Party in Egypt or Tunisian Ennahda?

During the conference we would like to address also the issues of acceptance of the socio-religious diversity by aforementioned and other Islamist groups in the region, and their readiness to cooperate with political parties representing different interests. Political Islam is often identified with little tolerance for social and political pluralism, but can this claim be confirmed in light of Ennahda’s and Muslim Brotherhood’s experiences of exercising political power? What can we say about openness to socio-religious and political pluralism of others Islamist groups in the MENA region? Has the core of Islamists ideology changed in recent years? Do the political manifestos, electoral programs and above all everyday practice confirm commitment of Islamist groups to social and political pluralism or rather negate it?

The goal of the conference is a multifaceted analysis of changes within the Islamists movements in the MENA region after the Arab Spring. Main attention will be paid above all to the Tunisian and Egyptian groups representing political Islam, but analysis regarding Islamists parties and movements from other parts of the MENA are also highly welcomed. 


Some of the issues that conference will try to tackle include are:

- Political Islam in the MENA region in the light of social movements theory

- Islamism and socio-political pluralism

- Violence and non-violent protests among the strategies of Islamist groups in the region

- Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood as social movements and political parties

- Mobilization strategies among the Islamist groups in the region

- Cooperation strategies of Islamist actors in the region and key challenges to such cooperation

- The issues of religious minorities, women and human rights in the programs of Islamist actors and their political practice


Paper proposals should be sent by 25th October 2015 to Konrad Pędziwiatr k.pedziwiatr@gmail.com and Rachela Tonta rachela.tonta@outlook.com

The proposals should include name and surname of the author, institutional affiliation, e-mail address, and the title and an abstract (around 500 words or 2500 characters).

Participants will be notified at the beginning of November 2015.

There is no fee for the conference. Conference documentation, coffee breaks and lunch will be provided by the organizers free of charge.

The conference will be held in English.


Conference Organizers

Konrad Pędziwiatr, holds a PhD in Social Sciences from the from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). He is currently an assistant Professor at the Cracow University of Economics, researcher at Södertörn University and coordinator of the project Islamism and Pluralism - The Islamist Movements in Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring. His research interests include: Islam and Muslims in Europe, religions, migrations and social movements in Europe and Middle East and North Africa.


Rachela Tonta, holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the Faculty of International and Political Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She is currently a researcher at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Islamism and Pluralism project research team. Her research interests include: Shi'a communities in the Arab world, relationship between religion and politics in Iran, social movements in the Middle East and North Africa.


The research conference is organised within a project “Islamism and Pluralism: The Islamist Movements in Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring” financed by the National Science Centre (Poland)  - Decision  No. NCN-KR-0011/288/2/2012

Contact Info: 

Konrad Pędziwiatr, Rachela Tonta

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